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Tarzana | Valley Focus

Carl's Jr. Proposed at Former Church Site


What was once part of the St. James Presbyterian Church sanctuary at 19414 Ventura Blvd. is slated to become a Carl's Jr. fast-food restaurant, pending the city's approval of a conditional use permit.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake destroyed the church sanctuary, sending the ceiling and light fixtures crashing down on the pews of the 1,000-seat church.

A year later, church members voted to demolish the sanctuary and sell part of the property. The 120-by-260-foot parcel is currently in escrow. Carl Karcher Enterprises, owner of Carl's Jr. restaurants, is looking to purchase the land for $1.06 million.

Because St. James Presbyterian Church didn't have earthquake insurance, the congregation decided to sell part of its land to raise enough money to build a new church, said the pastor, the Rev. Ken Tracy. The new church will seat 300 and cost about $1.3 million. It will front Ventura Boulevard just west of the proposed Carl's Jr. restaurant.

Architectural plans are complete, and the church is in the process of selecting a contractor. Groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for the July Fourth weekend. Officials hope the new church will open in March, Tracy said.

"[The earthquake] has given us a chance to look at a church building that was a tradition for our congregation but wasn't adequate for our needs," he said.

Sterling Barnes, a city planning associate, is completing a building analysis of the site and will present it at a public hearing Monday at the Sherman Oaks Woman's Club, 4808 Kester Ave.

The lot is zoned for commercial use, Barnes said, but a hearing is necessary because of the possible adverse impact on the area of additional lighting and traffic associated with a drive-through restaurant.

The city has received one letter opposing the fast-food restaurant, Barnes said.

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